Mercedes duo dominates opening Melbourne free practice, over a second clear of the chasing pack.
Nico Rosberg scored a small victory – by a couple of hundredths of a second – over Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in the first free practice session of the year in Melbourne.
Rosberg set an early 1:29.557 in the first half-hour, when an extra set of medium Pirelli tyres was available to all drivers, with Hamilton doing a 1:32.044 that was only seventh quickest at the time. Sebastian Vettel was second fastest at that point, just under a second slower, closely followed by Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.
On his second set of medium tyres, Hamilton leapt up to second on a 1:29.586 as Rosberg failed to improve on his new rubber.
Valtteri Bottas was third quickest on 1:30.748 and reported that his Williams “was on the lazy side” in terms of handling.
The Toro Rossos of Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen were an impressive fourth and sixth in the low 1:31 bracket, split by Vettel, with Felipe Massa (Williams) next up.
Raikkonen fell to eighth, ahead of Pastor Maldonado (Lotus), with local hero Daniel Ricciardo rounding out the top 10.
Ricciardo suffered the first spin of 2015 at Turn 15, after he dropped his right-side wheels on to the grass on turn-in – although he blamed a lack of engine braking for causing the moment. “Driveability is really tricky – it’s really aggressive,” he complained of the Renault engine.
Teammate Daniil Kvyat was 11th, ahead of the under-developed Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg.
McLaren suffered issues as expected, lapping well off the pace by the tune of 5s and both cars required serious repairs during the session.
Two teams did not run for conflicting reasons: Sauber did not complete a lap due to its on-going legal wrangle with Giedo van der Garde, although Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson sat in their cars for the first hour of the session.
Manor also did not run, but its cars appear far from ready. Its computer hard drives were all wiped while the company was in administration, and it is slowly rebuilding its data banks that it requires for the cars to run.
The new regulations concerning skid blocks meant that sparks made a return to Formula One, and proved hugely popular among the fans on social media.
|4||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso-Renault||1:31.014||1.145||33|
|6||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso-Renault||1:31.067||2.319||27|
|10||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull-Renault||1:31.570||2.776||30|
|11||Daniil Kvyat||Red Bull-Renault||1:32.073||3.058||31|
|12||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1:32.247||3.283||32|
|13||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:32.261||3.690||21|